GRADUATION REFLECTION SPEECH By Marie Rose Jasmine A. Chan Gold Medalist, MBA Regis Program – Iloilo Campus
January 28, 2020
Ateneo Graduate School of Business
24 November 2019
GRADUATION REFLECTION SPEECH
By Marie Rose Jasmine A. Chan
Gold Medalist, MBA Regis Program – Iloilo Campus
Commencement Speaker, Dr. Donald Patrick Lim,
Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin of the Society of Jesus, President of the Ateneo de Manila University, Dr. John Paul Vergara, Vice-President for the Professional Schools,
Dean Rodolfo Ang of the Graduate School of Business,
Dean Ronald Mendoza of the School of Government,
Mr. Rey Reyes, Registrar of the Professional Schools,
AGSB Faculty, Administrators and Staff, distinguished guests, family, friends, fellow graduates,
Magandang Hapon po sa inyong lahat.
It is a great honor for me to be given this opportunity to share my reflections on my MBA journey. I share this honor with each one of the graduates here, who have survived the Ateneo MBA Program, most especially to my classmates in Iloilo who are here with me, and in particular, to my husband, my classmate, who is also graduating with a gold medal. Of course, our parents, children, friends and professors deserve equal praises for the support and understanding, for journeying with us through sleepless nights and stressful days that brought us here. I would like to specially mention my mom who has flown to Iloilo from Manila from time to time to help with the kids and my mother-in-law who has covered for us in various ways. But I give back all honor and glory to God who has made all things possible.
When my husband and I took the entrance exams for the MBA Regis Program in Iloilo five years ago, my main objective was to be a better consultant, aside from being an accountant, by learning from the rich experience of Ateneo professors. We took advantage of the fact that we did not have to fly to Manila and yet have the same quality of education as those of you who studied in Rockwell.
With this MBA degree on our list of credentials, I believe that we are now more equipped to be better businessmen and managers. We can now go out into the world and, as the cliché’ goes, to bring our success and make the world a better place by being men and women for others. Today I would also like to share my thoughts on how we can use our MBA to further expand this success beyond creating wealth for ourselves and uplifting the lives of others. I realized that we can also use the MBA concepts we learned to enrich our own family and personal life and uplift souls, to become our path to holiness and find true happiness. I am talking about the integration of our profession with our passion, mission and vocation so that we can find success not only in our professional life but also in our family and spiritual life. This balance when united to God’s will for our life is what St. Ignatius refers to as unity of life. According to Pope Benedict XVI “No Father of the Church expressed with the same intensity as St. Ignatius the longing for union with Christ and for life in Him.”
If I were to describe my three-year MBA journey, I would candidly say that it has been full of life. My MBA journey literally began and ended with new life. I gave birth to my fifth baby four months before the start of our first MBA class and my sixth baby after our 11th class. Yes, you heard me right, I have six wonderful kids, aged 16, 14, 11, 6, 3 and 1. They were all unplanned but all wanted and loved from the moment of conception. The most unplanned of them were the last two. At the time I gave birth to our fifth child, Red, last May 2016, we just found out that the Ateneo MBA program was going to begin two years after we took the entrance exams. It was also the same time we were appointed as Chapter Head of our community. Balancing my professional life as a certified public accountant, handling over 100 clients, with my family and community life was already a hard act to maintain. Adding a new baby and starting the MBA to my already busy life was unimaginable to some of my friends.
I started with our first class on Leadership with all these roles of mother, spouse, daughter, boss, accountant and community leader on my plate. When we were asked to present our passion and mission in life as a final activity in Leadership class, I identified that teaching is my passion. Through the exercises and lessons in class, I learned that I found my deepest happiness at times when I could teach…when I could share about my experiences so others can learn from them too…when I can answer my children’s innocent but difficult questions…and when I can explain to my clients the current tax rules and regulations and successfully convince them to be more compliant. I realized that although I am not a teacher by profession, my passion is to teach. And my personal brand of leadership is to teach that God is in the ordinary circumstances of our life. In this complicated world, where time flies so fast and there are always so many things to do and so little time, my personal advocacy is to show people that with the right intention, motivation and God’s grace we can have the courage to put on our cape and be superheroes in real life.
We read about the foundation of heroism in Chris Lowney’s book, the Heroic Leadership. To quote: “Heroic leadership is motivating oneself to above-and-beyond performance by focusing on the richest potential of every moment. Jesuits characterized it more simply with their company motto, magis: the relentless drive to look for something more in every opportunity and the confidence that one will find it. It’s not the job that’s heroic; it’s the attitude that one brings to it.”
It is magis that reminded me that mediocre work does not give glory to God and pushed me to finish my paper in the wee hours of the morning, after I have worked the whole day and nursed my baby to sleep. When I am tempted to submit haphazard work just so I could sleep before 2am, my own voice talking to my kids reminds me that it is always important to do your best. I was conscious that being a student myself made me the first role model of a hardworking student to my children.
The reflections we did in Leadership class put forth the foundation for each succeeding class. I would reflect on each subject as I wrote cases and final papers, I looked for something more beyond the theories and business concepts. One of the things I realized as we went along was that each subject we took was not only applicable to the business world but to other aspects of our personal and even our spiritual life. When we put them all together we can come up with our vision and mission, objectives, plans and strategies not only for our companies but also to improve our family, married and spiritual life as well. As MBA graduates, I know we have been prepared to apply what we have learned in the business world. I would like to share how my husband and I are applying these concepts in other aspects of our life.
Our family had our family visioning session two years ago where we identified who we are, how we can contribute our individual qualities and talents to a better family life and family relationships and how we could contribute to society as a family and become more service oriented. As a result of this session, we started sharing our blessings to a boys’ home in Iloilo last Christmas and sponsored a student to school. We have also prioritized that when there is a conflict between work or family life, we choose family first. So I can say that I have missed only a few of my children’s activities, performances or special events in their life.
As a married couple, MBA became a shared experience and struggle for us. In spite of the demands of MBA and the frequent group meetings, part of our objective was not really to get a gold medal but to finish this off without sacrificing our quality time with our family. We included in our plans, pockets of time with each child by having a one-on-one date with them weekly and they adjusted to our available time by agreeing to watch the last full show of popular movies. We have actually watched most if not all of the marvel movies leading to the Endgame and other children movies, as well. If that were a scorecard for the success of this planned family time, I guess we scored fairly high.
In Ateneo, we are familiar with the words Ad Majorem De Gloriam or AMDG. With success in our company or business, how do we give greater glory to God if we also do not pay attention to our own spiritual life and those of our stakeholders? St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, said that our path to holiness is the sanctification of our ordinary life. It is doing our best in whatever we are doing and making our work worthy for God. Ignatian spirituality also forms people who are called “contemplatives in action.” Ignatianspirituality.com describes “contemplatives in action” as “reflective people with a rich inner life who are deeply engaged in God’s work in the world. They unite themselves with God by joining God’s active labor to save and heal the world. It’s an active spiritual attitude—a way for everyone to seek and find God in their workplaces, homes, families, and communities.”
My husband and I have been attending three-day retreats annually, aside from the retreats given by our community for national leaders, and during advent and holy week. I have been going to daily mass and we have been struggling to pray the rosary together everyday. In the office, we start with a morning prayer and reading of the gospel for the day and pray the angelus before taking our lunch break. These are some of the ways we make sure that our ordinary life is united to our spiritual life.
In the Vocation of a Business Leader we read in Ethics class, it says “Business leaders can put aspiration into practice when they pursue their vocation, motivated by much more than financial success. When they integrate the gifts of the spiritual life, the virtues and ethical social principles into their life and work, they may overcome the divided life, and receive the grace to foster the integral development of all business stakeholders.”
We have experienced how integrating ethical principles in business is difficult specially when it means paying the right taxes or the just wages. Six of us in our MBA class formed a new corporation and took over an insolvent company providing food tolling services for more than 100 convenience stores in the Panay region. After 18 months in operation, we have seen an increase in sales of more than 60% but also with increasing capital requirements to cope up with expansion plans. So it is difficult to let go of P150,000 to pay for VAT knowing that others find unscrupulous ways of reducing theirs. Many businesses in Iloilo pay below minimum wage rates but we have made sure that our company pays at least minimum wage and more for those with technical or supervisory positions.
Our graduates in the Iloilo Campus are mostly business owners, maybe around 80 percent, and top level managers not only from Iloilo but from other provinces in Western Visayas, like Capiz and Antique. One of our graduates own one of the top flour milling companies in the country. Other graduates own a nationwide chain of jewelry stores, hotels, fast food chains, hardware, coffee shop, dialysis centers, a farm, distributorships, to mention a few. While other graduates sit in the board or Mancom of their companies. Our MBA is helping us expand and grow our companies. For example, my husband, the only pediatric eye doctor in Western Visayas with the only group practice in Iloilo, was able to convince his group to open an eye center in a mall as a result of the marketing plan we prepared for Marketing Management class.
With Ateneo changing the mindset of business leaders, from a focus on financial success alone to the personal, spiritual and economic development of its stakeholders, we hope to see increasing virtues and ethical principles in the workplace. And with Western Visayas economy projected to grow in the coming years, we hope to spread this fire in the hearts of more businessmen.
Each of us here were given the gift of our work, business or profession. And each of us were also given the gift of our own life and our family. With our MBA and ignatian values, let our passion stir our energies to live our God-given mission of a sanctified and contemplative life in action. Let our vocation as a business leader ensure our unity of life and aim for more than financial success. As a saying goes “No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home.” When everything seems insurmountable, let us remember that there is always God’s grace that strengthens and empowers us to move forward and hope in the Lord.
I am sure each of you also has a beautiful story to tell about your own journey. And I am certain that your hearts are overflowing with gratitude to the One who has brought us to where we are now. So I end with what St. Ignatius would have said to us too “Ite, inflammate omnia”, “Go set the world on fire.”… Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam..For the Greater Glory of God.
Thank you very much.